Dadi Pudumjee is the image of calm although he claims to be nervous. In Varanasi for the premiere of his present Dohé Jo Mohé on Kabir and his teachings, the veteran puppeteer and Padma Shri recipient, seems to be comfy listening to soul-stirring music and engrossing conversations at Guleria Ghat, one of many two heritage venues of the sixth Mahindra Kabira Festival.
The pioneer of recent puppetry in India, Dadi, founding father of Ishara Puppet Theatre, has linked puppetry traditions in India with trendy puppetry by incorporating modern themes and introducing adjustments in how puppets are made, transfer and carry out. His puppetry is a confluence of actors, music and dance. He says that since Dohé Jo Mohé is a brand new efficiency accompanied by reside music, he needs to see how the viewers receives it.
Leaning again on the silken cushions of the fantastically renovated 250-year-old Guleria Kothi, Dadi says that the piece on Kabir was made for the pageant. “Some of the puppets are old ones from Ishara. But the 40-minute act was curated and put together with Sandeep Pillai’s Bengaluru-based Soule Band. They worked on the dohas of Kabir and the songs and they put it together in such a way that is a movement exercise, a visual treat.”
Dadi feels the invitation to work on Kabir’s philospohy was fascinating as a result of “at that time we were working on a large piece called Rumiyana along with Soule Band, which will be premiered at the India Habitat Centre in Delhi on December 3. The piece is about folk tales on Rumi and will be visualised with the help of actors and puppets. There are two actors, the master and the pupil, and they connect each story.“
While reading up on Rumi and Kabir, he was struck by the commonality in their philosophy and teachings. “ Rumiyana is about a search within but all of them talk about universal love, peace, inclusivity. For me, that was the most interesting aspect. Reading one master to the other from different geographies and countries… they have so much in common,” he factors out.
Rumiyana, primarily based on the works of the mystic Sufi poet and thinker Mevlana Jalaluddin Rumi, synergises puppets, actors, dancers, music and digital projection.
Ishara has labored with reside music on one or two events. In 2014, for the fiftieth anniversary of the National Centre for the Performing Arts, Ishara was commissioned to do a present When Land Becomes Water, which had been three tales on the flood primarily based on a ebook by Neeta Premchand. “Music by Canada-based Airat Ichmouratov was conducted by Evgeny Bushkov and accompanied by a live performance of the Symphony Orchestra of India. Usually we use pre-recorded music as live music is not always easy, especially when doing shows of this genre,” says Dadi.
While replying to a query on the relevance of mystics comparable to Kabir and Rumi, Dadi goes down reminiscence lane to share an expertise of his. In 1993, Kapila Vatsyayan from the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts commissioned Ishara to do a chunk on Gandhiji.
Dadi didn’t wish to repeat what was already there in print and visible media. For the present, Ishara labored with world music sans lyrics or dialogues to choreograph the 45-minute present, Images of Truth (Sathya Ke Pratiroop). “There was flash back, flash forward. It is completely non-verbal and till date, it remains one of our most popular shows. It has travelled to the US, Greece, Turkey, Egypt…At every place it has connected with the audience, young and old,” says Dadi.
Responding to an invite from Iran, Ishara provided them a number of exhibits however they insisted on Images of Truth, as that they had seen the video of the efficiency. “The reaction to it was fantastic. At the end of a performance, one guy came up and gave me a fat book in Farsi with all the quotations of Gandhi. He said that in junior school, they had a textbook or classes on Gandhi,” recollects Dadi.
He finds it fascinating that each the initiatives – on Kabir and Rumi – got here on the similar time. “During discussions with my group, I found that most of them know more about Kabir than me, the musicians definitely. They knew the lyrics, the dohe… they are all in their twenties.”
“Even if one can conceptualise a programe, platforms to showcase those are equally important. Only then will people be able to see it,” he provides.
Going again to the time when he started pulling strings to pursue his ardour for puppetry, he rewinds: “Growing up in Pune, puppetry started as a hobby that stayed with me through school and college. In 1971 I went to the National Institute of Design (NID) in Ahmedabad to study visual communication and graphic design. In those days, the late Meher Contractor used to run a puppet section at the Darpana Academy of Performing Arts in Ahmedabad. That how it [puppetry] got more formalised.”
Every night Dadi was there and he acquired launched to Indian methods of puppetry. During that point, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) had arrange an area software centre in Ahmedabad. “That was in my last year in NID. ISRO had a satellite TV instructional experiment centre. NID gave me a year of absence to follow work there,” he reminsces.
Dadi took up the mission Hun-Han for ISRO and labored within the puppetry studio. “We were making new puppets every week for social awareness, education… It was a series meant for satellite community viewing. One thing led to the other and I did not go back to NID. By then I had got a scholarship to study the art at Marionette Theatre Institute, Stockholm, under Michael Meschke.”
After educating stints in Stockholm and ertswhile German Democratic Republic (East Germany), Dadi returned to India in 1980. He labored with the Sree Ram Centre to arrange Sutradhar Puppet Theatre, the primary skilled puppetry repertory in India. IN 1986, he left it and shaped Ishara Puppet Theatre.
“Ishara works with puppets for social awareness, education, eclectic performances such as poetry, music …but always puppets as a means, not an end in itself. We have projects where we work with puppets and actors, with dance, with masks and then we play with with scale. We have puppets that are one-foot hight to gaint puppets, that are 12 to 14-feet in height,” he elaborates.
Later that night, as his group Ishara and Soule Band acquired a standing ovation, it was clear that each one his apprehensions had been unfounded.
“The words of the dohe are important and interesting. So we illustrated those with water, with light, with clay, figures of fish, birds and large puppets,” says Dadi. A 12-feet puppet represented the saint-poet as dancers carrying masks interpreted the lyrics sung by Soule Band comprising Sandeep Pillai (guitar and vocals), Sarfaraaz Khan (sarangi and vocals), Deepak Marathe (harmonium and vocals) and Sumith Naik (guitar and vocals).
Seven or eight states in India have good puppetry traditions. Some are doing effectively, some are languishing. On November twenty fifth, Dadi was a part of a web-based session on puppets and motion organised by Delhi-based Natya Ballet Centre. “As part of the Natya Ballet Dance Festival 2022, there was a session on puppetry and we curated four traditional puppetry groups from Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh,West Bengal and Rajasthan. The session was specifically on the movement of the puppets and dance ites in puppetry,” Dadi provides.